Mental Health Concerns Resource Guide for Staff

Patients with Mental Health Concerns

Adults, Young Adults and Adolescent Patients with mental health concerns might display:

  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability) or suicidal thoughts
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong displays of anger
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance abuse

Key Recommendations for Communicating with Patients with Mental Health Disability

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 Make sure you have the patient’s attention by addressing the patient by name, making an eye contact and/or using touch

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 Use simple, concrete language in short sentences without idioms, irony, or metaphors. Give direct requests


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 Don’t rush. Allow time for patient to listen and process what you say

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Leverage the support person or guardian for behavior management, communication, and patient preferences

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If the patient doesn’t understand:

  • Repeat
  • Use simpler or different words
  • Use pictures
  • Demonstrate

If you don’t understand:

  • Don’t pretend to understand
  • Ask the patient to say it again
  • Ask the patient to show instead
  • Ask to involve family member/support worker if appropriate
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Eliminate distractions and minimize background noises, if possible, by rooming the patient early

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Avoid sensory overload by providing information gradually and clearly

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Treat adults as adults. Do not patronize, condescend, or threaten when communicating with the person

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Do not make decisions for the person or assume that you know the person's preferences

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Additional Accommodations for Patients with Mental Health Disability

Exceptions to the COVID-19 Visitor Policy

Please see Michigan Medicine’s Visitor Guidelines During COVID-19, including the Guidelines for Supporting Adult Patients with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PDF). Questions regarding policy modifications should be referred to Patient Relations and Clinical Risk at 734-936-4330.

Policy on Service Animals at Michigan Medicine

To learn more about Michigan Medicine’s policy on service animals, please watch this video. It has been designed to provide real life examples on how to handle patients with service animals and describes the rights of patients with service animals. You may also download a FAQ sheet to share with colleagues.­

Advance Directives for Mental Health Care

Also known as a psychiatric advance directive (PAD), the advance directives for mental health care legally documents the patient’s preferences for future mental health treatment and allows for the appointment of a proxy to interpret those preferences during a mental health crisis.

Resources for Community Living

Path Projects

The PATH (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness) provides funds for services to persons with mental illness, including those with substance use disorders who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless.

Shelter Plus Care

The Shelter Plus Care Program (S+C) links rental assistance for homeless individuals with disabilities and their families.